MEET the man who can call Pingu, Postman Pat and Fantastic Mr Fox his friends.

Former Penketh High School pupil Ian Mackinnon recently marked 20 successful years of creating children’s TV favourites with a lifetime achievement award.

The 45-year-old’s career was kickstarted when his winning entry in a school art competition appeared in the Warrington Guardian in 1985 and grabbed the attention of animators Cosgrove Hall Films.

Since then, after setting up his own company with business partner Peter Saunders, Ian and his team have worked on between 70 and 80 children’s programmes and are currently working on their 10th feature film.

He added: “It felt odd getting a lifetime achievement award not at the end of your career but we were very proud to receive it.

“It represents the work of the company and then the following weekend we were handed the judges award from the Royal TV Society which all tied in really nicely with our 20th celebrations at the end of last year.

“It’s nice to look back and see the company associated with some great projects over the last 20 years.”

Mackinnon & Saunders, the world’s leading company specialising in character development of stop-motion puppets, has just completed 26 episodes of Postman Pat and can also count Pingu and Bob the Builder as hits over the years.

But Ian says he is particularly proud of the two to three years of work that goes into feature projects including Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie.

He added: “It was a dream come true being spotted especially knowing now how hard it is getting into animation.

“I feel extremely lucky and it’s really nice to be involved producing shows for pre-school children as there’s a lot of programmes that are very special to people.”

Ian was not the only talented to pupil to leave Penketh High in the 80s as Bob the Builder designer Curtis Jobling followed a few years later and then worked with Ian on Mars Attacks and earlier author Robin Jarvis had inspired Ian as a youngster.

He added: “Robin was a few years older than me and a great artist.

“I saw his work at school and thought ‘Wow’.

“I think you get spurred on by other students around you and inspired when you see their work to put that extra bit of effort in.

“I never thought at school it would be something I could make a living out of but it’s rewarding work and a privilege to play with plasticine and create puppets as a job.”